Prewriting Strategies

The term “pre-writing” conjures up a lot of strange activities and practices.  You’ve probably tried many different prewriting strategies in the past, and may have a good idea of what works for you and what doesn’t.   Keep in mind, that the KIND of writing project you’re working on can impact how effective a particular technique is to use in a given situation.

Some resources for additional prewriting activities are listed here.



Close-up photo of a silver microwave dial timerSetting a goal for a short amount of time (5 minutes or 10 minutes are good options), just write anything that comes to mind related to your topic.  The goal is to not worry about what comes out of your pen, if handwriting, or keyboard, if typing.  Instead, just free your mind to associate as it wishes.  It’s amazingly productive for rich ideas, and it’s nice not to have to worry about spelling and grammar.

Additional information:’s “How to FreeWrite”


Photo of a list handwritten on graphing paper, with a pen on topIf you’re a list-maker by nature, there’s no reason not to harness that for academic writing purposes.  Jot notes about major ideas related to the subject you’re working with.  This also works well with a time limit, like 10 minutes.  Bonus points–after you’ve had time to reflect on your list, you can rearrange it in hierarchical order, and create a basic outline quite simply.

Additional Information: Higher Awareness’s “List Making – Journaling Tool”


Photo of a Mindmap drawn on a whiteboard with different colored markers. The center of the cluster is "Wiki facilitation principles" with branching ideas from there.

Click to enlarge

Also known as “mapping,” this is a more visual form of brainstorming.  It asks you to come up with topic ideas, and draw lines to connect


ideas and figure out sub-categories and related ideas.   You can end up with a quite extensive “bubble cloud” as a result.  This also works well within a time limit, like 10 minutes.

Additional Information: Edudemic’s 5 Innovative Mind-Mapping Tools for Education



Image of an advertisement from a magazine, with a large purple question mark containing the questions Where, When, What, Why, How, and WhoThe way to find answers is to ask questions—seems simple enough.  This applies to early-stage writing processes, just like everything else.  When you have a topic in mind, asking and answering questions about it is a good way to figure out directions your writing might take.

Additional Information: Paradigm’s The Journalists’ Questions (7 pages)



Other prewriting strategies exist.  Do you have a favorite method?